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The rising cost of not going to college

For those who question the value of college in this era of soaring student debt and high unemployment, the attitudes and experiences of today’s young adults—members of the so-called Millennial generation—provide a compelling answer. On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education. And when today’s young adults are compared with previous generations, the disparity in economic outcomes between college graduates and those with a high school diploma or less formal schooling has never been greater in the modern era.

These assessments are based on findings from a new nationally representative Pew Research Center survey of 2,002 adults supplemented by a Pew Research analysis of economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The economic analysis finds that Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 321 who are working full time earn more annually—about $17,500 more—than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma. The pay gap was significantly smaller in previous generations.2 College-educated Millennials also are more likely to be employed full time than their less-educated counterparts (89% vs. 82%) and significantly less likely to be unemployed (3.8% vs. 12.2%).

Turning to attitudes toward work, employed Millennial college graduates are more likely than their peers with a high school diploma or less education to say their job is a career or a steppingstone to a career (86% vs. 57%). In contrast, Millennials with a high school diploma or less are about three times as likely as college graduates to say their work is “just a job to get [them] by” (42% vs. 14%).

The survey also finds that among employed Millennials, college graduates are significantly more likely than those without any college experience to say that their education has been “very useful” in preparing them for work and a career (46% vs. 31%). And these better educated young adults are more likely to say they have the necessary education and training to advance in their careers (63% vs. 41%).

But do these benefits outweigh the financial burden imposed by four or more years of college? Among Millennials ages 25 to 32, the answer is clearly yes: About nine-in-ten with at least a bachelor’s degree say college has already paid off (72%) or will pay off in the future (17%). Even among the two-thirds of college-educated Millennials who borrowed money to pay for their schooling, about nine-in-ten (86%) say their degrees have been worth it or expect that they will be in the future.

Of course, the economic and career benefits of a college degree are not limited to Millennials. Overall, the survey and economic analysis consistently find that college graduates regardless of generation are doing better than those with less education.3

 

But the Pew Research study also finds that on some key measures, the largest and most striking disparities between college graduates and those with less education surface in the Millennial generation.

For example, in 1979 when the first wave of Baby Boomers were the same age that Millennials are today, the typical high school graduate earned about three-quarters (77%) of what a college graduate made. Today, Millennials with only a high school diploma earn 62% of what the typical college graduate earns.

To be sure, the Great Recession and the subsequent slow recovery hit the Millennial generation particularly hard.4 Neither college graduates nor those with less education were spared. On some key measures such as the percentage who are unemployed or the share living in poverty, this generation of college-educated adults is faring worse than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers or members of the Silent generation when they were in their mid-20s and early 30s.

But today’s high school graduates are doing even worse, both in comparison to their college-educated peers and when measured against other generations of high school graduates at a similar point in their lives.

Percentage of Generation in Poverty, by Educational AttainmentFor example, among those ages 25 to 32, fully 22% with only a high school diploma are living in poverty, compared with 6% of today’s college-educated young adults. In contrast, only 7% of Baby Boomers who had only a high school diploma were in poverty in 1979 when they were in their late 20s and early 30s.

The Generations DefinedTo examine the value of education in today’s job market, the Pew Research Center drew from two complementary data sources. The first is a nationally representative survey conducted Oct. 7-27, 2013, of 2,002 adults, including 630 Millennials ages 25-32, the age at which most of these young adults will have completed their formal education and started their working lives. This survey captured the views of today’s adults toward their education, their job and their experiences in the workforce.

To measure how the economic outcomes of older Millennials compare with those of other generations at a comparable age, the Pew Research demographic analysis drew from data collected in the government’s Current Population Survey. The CPS is a large-sample survey that has been conducted monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau for more than six decades.

Specifically, Pew analysts examined CPS data collected last year among 25- to 32-year-olds and then examined data among 25- to 32-year-olds in four earlier years: Silents in 1965 (ages 68 to 85 at the time of the Pew Research survey and Current Population Survey); the first or “early” wave of Baby Boomers in 1979 (ages 59 to 67 in 2013), the younger or “late” wave of Baby Boomers in 1986 (ages 49 to 58 in 2013) and Gen Xers in 1995 (ages 33 to 48 in 2013).

The Rise of the College Graduate

While Education Levels of 25- to 32-year-olds Have Risen Dramatically Across the Generations …Today’s Millennials are the best-educated generation in history; fully a third (34%) have at least a bachelor’s degree. In contrast, only 13% of 25- to 32-year-olds in 1965—the Silent generation—had a college degree, a proportion that increased to 24% in the late 1970s and 1980s when Boomers were young adults. In contrast, the proportion with a high school diploma has declined from 43% in 1965 to barely a quarter (26%) today.

At the same time the share of college graduates has grown, the value of their degrees has increased. Between 1965 and last year, the median annual earnings of 25- to 32-year-olds with a college degree grew from $38,833 to $45,500 in 2012 dollars, nearly a $7,000 increase.

Taken together, these two facts—the growing economic return to a college degree and the larger share of college graduates in the Millennial generation—might suggest that the Millennial generation should be earning more than earlier generations of young adults.

But they’re not. The overall median earnings of today’s Millennials ($35,000) aren’t much different than the earnings of early Boomers ($34,883) or Gen Xers ($32,173) and only somewhat higher than Silents ($30,982) at comparable ages.

The Declining Value of a High School Diploma

The Widening Earnings Gap of Young Adults by Educational AttainmentThe explanation for this puzzling finding lies in another major economic trend reshaping the economic landscape: The dramatic decline in the value of a high school education. While earnings of those with a college degree rose, the typical high school graduate’s earnings fell by more than $3,000, from $31,384 in 1965 to $28,000 in 2013. This decline, the Pew Research analysis found, has been large enough to nearly offset the gains of college graduates.

The steadily widening earnings gap by educational attainment is further highlighted when the analysis shifts to track the difference over time in median earnings of college graduates versus those with a high school diploma.

In 1965, young college graduates earned $7,499 more than those with a high school diploma. But the earnings gap by educational attainment has steadily widened since then, and today it has more than doubled to $17,500 among Millennials ages 25 to 32.

Other Labor Market Outcomes

To be sure, the Great Recession and painfully slow recovery have taken their toll on the Millennial generation, including the college-educated.

Young college graduates are having more difficulty landing work than earlier cohorts. They are more likely to be unemployed and have to search longer for a job than earlier generations of young adults.

But the picture is consistently bleaker for less-educated workers: On a range of measures, they not only fare worse than the college-educated, but they are doing worse than earlier generations at a similar age.

For example, the unemployment rate for Millennials with a college degree is more than double the rate for college-educated Silents in 1965 (3.8% vs. 1.4%). But the unemployment rate for Millennials with only a high school diploma is even higher: 12.2%, or more than 8 percentage points more than for college graduates and almost triple the unemployment rate of Silents with a high school diploma in 1965.

The same pattern resurfaces when the measure shifts to the length of time the typical job seeker spends looking for work. In 2013 the average unemployed college-educated Millennial had been looking for work for 27 weeks—more than double the time it took an unemployed college-educated 25- to 32-year-old in 1979 to get a job (12 weeks). Again, today’s young high school graduates fare worse on this measure than the college-educated or their peers in earlier generations. According to the analysis, Millennial high school graduates spend, on average, four weeks longer looking for work than college graduates (31 weeks vs. 27 weeks) and more than twice as long as similarly educated early Boomers did in 1979 (12 weeks).

Similarly, in terms of hours worked, likelihood of full-time employment and overall wealth, today’s young college graduates fare worse than their peers in earlier generations. But again, Millennials without a college degree fare worse, not only in comparison to their college-educated contemporaries but also when compared with similarly educated young adults in earlier generations.

The Value of a College Major

As the previous sections show, having a college degree is helpful in today’s job market. But depending on their major field of study, some are more relevant on the job than others, the Pew Research survey finds.

To measure the value of their college studies, all college graduates were asked their major or, if they held a graduate or professional degree, their field of study. Overall, 37% say they were social science, liberal arts or education majors, a third (33%) say they studied a branch of science or engineering and a quarter (26%) majored in business. The remainder said they were studying or training for a vocational occupation.

Usefulness of Major, by Field of StudyOverall, those who studied science or engineering are the most likely to say that their current job is “very closely” related to their college or graduate field of study (60% vs. 43% for both social science, liberal arts or education majors and business majors).

At the same time, those who majored in science or engineering are less likely than social science, liberal arts or education majors to say in response to another survey question that they should have chosen a different major as an undergraduate to better prepare them for the job they wanted.

According to the survey, only about a quarter of science and engineering majors regretted their decision (24%), compared with 33% of those whose degree is in social science, liberal arts or education. Some 28% of business majors say they would have been better prepared for the job they wanted if they had chosen a different major. (Overall, the survey found that 29% say they should have chosen a different major to better prepare them for their ideal job.)

Major Regrets

College Days, ReconsideredIn addition to selecting a different major, the Pew Research survey asked college graduates whether, while still in school, they could have better prepared for the type of job they wanted by gaining more work experience, studying harder or beginning their job search earlier.

About three-quarters of all college graduates say taking at least one of those four steps would have enhanced their chances to land their ideal job. Leading the should-have-done list: getting more work experience while still in school. Half say taking this step would have put them in a better position to get the kind of job they wanted. About four-in-ten (38%) regret not studying harder, while three-in-ten say they should have started looking for a job sooner (30%) or picked a different major (29%).

When analyzed together, the survey suggests that, among these items tested, only about a quarter (26%) of all college graduates have no regrets, while 21% say they should have done at least three or all four things differently while in college to enhance their chances for a job they wanted.

The survey also found that Millennials are more likely than Boomers to have multiple regrets about their college days. Three-in-ten (31%) of all Millennials and 17% of Boomers say they should have done three or all four things differently in order to prepare themselves for the job they wanted. Some 22% of Gen Xers say the same.

The remainder of this report is organized in the following way. The first chapter uses Census Bureau data to compare how Millennials ages 25 to 32 with varying levels of education are faring economically. It also examines how economic outcomes by level of education have changed over time by comparing the economic fortunes of Millennials with those of similarly educated Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Silents at comparable ages.

The second chapter is based exclusively on data from a recent Pew Research Center survey. It examines how all adults assess the value of their education in preparing them for the workforce and specifically how these views differ by levels of education.

About the Data

Findings in this report are based mainly on data from: (1) The Current Population Survey and (2) A new Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2013.

Data on Labor Market and Economic Outcomes: The labor market and economic data are derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Conducted jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPS is a monthly survey of approximately 55,000 households and is the source of the nation’s official statistics on unemployment. The CPS is nationally representative of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. This analysis uses the Annual Social and Economic Supplement collected in March of each year. The March CPS features an expanded sample size (about 75,000 households in 2013) and is the basis for the widely noted Census Bureau’s annual Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage estimates reported each fall (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor and Smith ,2013). The data analysis used the University of Minnesota Population Center’s integrated version of the March CPS (King, Ruggles, Alexander, Flood, Genadek, Schroeder, Trampe, and Vick ,2010).

Survey Data: The Pew Research survey was conducted October 7-27, 2013, with a nationally representative sample of 2,002 adults age 18 and older, including 982 adults ages 18 to 34. A total of 479 interviews were completed with respondents contacted by landline telephone and 1,523 with those contacted on their cellular phones. In order to increase the number of 25- to 34-year-old respondents in the sample, additional interviews were conducted with that cohort. Data are weighted to produce a final sample that is representative of the general population of adults in the United States. Survey interviews were conducted in English and Spanish under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points for results based on the total sample at the 95% confidence level.

  1. The Millennial generation includes those born after 1980 (which would include adults ages 18 to 32 in 2013). Unless otherwise noted in the text, references in this report to the economic outcomes of Millennials are based only on those ages 25 to 32, a period in which most young adults have completed their formal education and have entered the workforce.
  2. Throughout this report, references to those who are “high school graduates” or who have a diploma refer to those who have attained a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.
  3. For a detailed look at economic outcomes by education, see the Pew Research Center blog post “The growing economic clout of the college educated” by Richard Fry.
  4. For a detailed look at the impact of the Great Recession on various demographic groups, see the Pew Research Center report “How the Great Recession Has Changed Life in America”

10 Things the college admissions office won’t tell you

1. Not all grades are created equal

For the more than two million high school seniors who intend to go to college next year, the stomach-churning slog of filling out applications is in full swing.

And whether they’ll get a thick package announcing their admission or a thin, dream-dashing one-page letter (or their online equivalent) may well depend on their grade-point average. Grades account for about 75% of the typical admissions decision, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

But not all good grades are created equal. In the eyes of the admissions officers at the nation’s more than 2,800 four-year colleges, an “A” earned at one high school may only be worth a “B” at a more rigorous one. And in recent years, colleges have given more weight to grades from designated college-prep courses—and the more exclusive the college, the more weight those grades get.

One reason colleges are getting choosier: Grade inflation. Research by the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, shows that the average GPA for high school seniors rose from 2.64 in 1996 to 2.90 in 2006—even as SAT scores remained essentially flat.

The researchers saw this as evidence that some teachers were “using grades…to reward good efforts rather than achievement.” (The College Board also noted that, based on their test scores, less than half of SAT takers—just 43% in the graduating class of 2013—were academically prepared for college work.)

All that said, admissions officers generally believe that if you have a good GPA in high school, you’ll probably have a good GPA in college.

“The clear message (is that) hard work and good grades in high school matter, and they matter a lot,” said William Hiss, a retired dean of admissions at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine who co-wrote a February 2014 study on standardized testing.

By , photo by Mike White

To read the rest of the article go to : http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-the-college-admissions-office-wont-tell-you-2014-10-03?page=2

Colleges make it easier for students to show , not tell, in their applications

TOWSON, Md. — Madeline McDonough had a wistful “what if?” moment, pondering the offer that her school, Goucher College, has made to applicants: Instead of showing us your grades, send us a video.

“I really wish there had been options like that when I was applying to college,” said Ms. McDonough, 19, a junior studying sociology. “I didn’t have the best numbers, and I was stressed, worrying about how to show that I deserved the same opportunities as anyone else.”

Under the policy announced this month by Goucher, a 1,400-student liberal arts college near Baltimore, a prospective student may apply by submitting two pieces of work (at least one of them a graded high school writing assignment) and a two-minute video, rather than a high school transcript. José A. Bowen, Goucher’s new president, readily admits that he has no idea how many applicants will go that route, how many will be accepted or whether they will work out.

“This is an experiment, and there are plenty of reasonable objections,” he said. “We’re going to track these students, and we’ll really know in a year. If the kids who did video apps do worse than others, we’ll stop. If they do just as well or better, colleges around the country will be doing it.”

Students, parents and academics have long complained that competition for admission to highly selective colleges has become an overwhelming ordeal that favors bright but conventional, privileged worker bees over peers whose trials or quirks have gotten in the way of school. That is one of the criticisms in a much-discussed new book, “Excellent Sheep,” by William Deresiewicz, and a growing number of colleges have tried to address it.

As recently as the 1990s, there were only a handful of selective colleges that did not demand to see applicants’ ACT or SAT scores, but now there are dozens, including Bowdoin, Smith, Holy Cross, Brandeis, Wake Forest and the University of Texas, and more join the list every year. In the last few years, some top colleges have invited students to supplement their applications with a video.

Last year, Bard College went a step further, making transcripts optional, offering the alternative of an entrance exam consisting of four 2,500-word essays on a choice of scholarly topics, graded by professors. Now, Goucher, which was already test-optional, has raised — or lowered — the stakes, with a far less rigorous option.

On Wednesday, Bennington College announced that an applicant may submit a collection of work rather than a standard application. While the college would prefer that the submission include a transcript, it is not absolutely required.

The change at Goucher is characteristic of Dr. Bowen, a charismatic jazz musician and composer who took over the college in July. He bubbles with ideas about how to make higher education better and more inclusive, and talks about doing away with grades, having students declare a mission rather than a major, and coming up with new ways to assess how students grow. The video application drew scattered charges that Goucher’s move was a lowering of standards, a gimmick to draw attention and more applications, or both.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Brian C. Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, wrote, “This move sends an awful message to high school students and to a broader public that is already fed a steady diet of nonsense about the nature and value of education.”

Robert J. Sternberg, a professor of human development at Cornell and an author of books on teaching and intelligence, said, “A video can measure creativity, initiative and practical skills in a way a typical standardized assessment does not,” but it is not “a substitute for a high school transcript.”

“The video is also susceptible to bias in scoring,” he added, “for example, with regard to the attractiveness, ethnicity, weight or other perceived physical features of the video maker.”

But in general, reactions in higher education have been muted, with people voicing skepticism rather than condemnation — perhaps because Goucher, which accepts more than 70 percent of its applicants, is not risking the same kind of reputation as the most competitive colleges. Those elite schools still have far more demand than supply, but for other small colleges, this is a nervous time.

The number of college-age Americans is stagnant, consumers object more to rising costs and student debt, and cheaper, online alternatives are growing. Even with private colleges offering discounts, some have had trouble drawing enough students, and many others wonder if that will soon be their lot, too.

Dr. Bowen says Goucher’s new policy does not reflect a concern about enrollment, though the number of applications has slipped in recent years.

It may turn out that few people take Goucher up on the video offer; at Bard, just 41 of almost 7,000 applicants took the no-transcript route last year, though that was partly because it demanded a lot of work. On the Goucher campus, the reaction is largely positive, though here, too, curiosity about the results mingles with skepticism. Students said they would be interested, next year, to meet people who had enrolled at Goucher after submitting video applications, and equally interested to see how they managed academically.

“It accepts that different people have different styles, and that’s part of what Goucher’s about, so it’s an interesting option,” particularly for people interested in visual arts, said Colton Cincotta, a 20-year-old junior. “But is it going to be an easy cop-out for someone who hasn’t really done the work?”

Maria Venturelli, a first-year student, said students mostly liked the video idea, though many of them wondered if two minutes was long enough for an applicant to make an impression, or for the college to make a judgment.

“There is something very genuine about a video,” said Ms. Venturelli, 18. It fits the nature of the admissions process, she said, in which “you have to be a little narcissistic and sell yourself to the college.”

Dr. Bowen said he and the faculty, which endorsed the video applications, were moved by studies showing that many high-achieving students, especially those from low-income families, do not apply to selective schools.

“You have to find a way to encourage people to apply; they need a different kind of invitation, and students by and large have a phone and they understand video,” he said.

“People have learning differences, they mature at different speeds; a lot of great people might have blemishes on the transcript, and think they can’t get in,” he said. “We get mail from teachers thanking us for this, because they have students who want to hang themselves because they got a C in algebra.”

Goucher gives loose guidelines for the videos, and says production values do not matter. It tells applicants to say what they have to offer and why the college appeals to them, and says they will be judged on how clearly and convincingly they express themselves. (If they are admitted, the college will get their transcripts then, if only to know what classes they have already taken.)

The video, Dr. Bowen said, resembles what happens in the real world, in a job interview.

“All things being equal, I’d rather have a transcript,” he conceded. “Let’s say you’re a doctor. All things being equal, you’d rather have all of the tests done on every patient, but you can’t. Each of those tests comes at a cost.”

 

Original article can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/education/college-admissions-goucher-video.html?_r=0

Naked confessions of the college-bound

THE Yale applicant had terrific test scores. She had fantastic grades. As one of Yale’s admissions officers, Michael Motto, leafed through her application, he found himself more and more impressed.

Then he got to her essay. As he remembers it, she mentioned a French teacher she greatly admired. She described their one-on-one conversation at the end of a school day. And then, this detail: During their talk, when an urge to go to the bathroom could no longer be denied, she decided not to interrupt the teacher or exit the room. She simply urinated on herself.

“Her point was that she was not going to pull herself away from an intellectually stimulating conversation just to meet a physical need,” said Motto, who later left Yale and founded Apply High, a firm that guides students through the admissions process.

And his point in bringing her story up during a recent interview? The same as mine in passing it along:

When it comes to college admissions, our society has tumbled way, way too far down the rabbit hole, as I’ve observed before. And in the warped wonderland where we’ve landed, too many kids attach such a crazy degree of importance to getting into the most selective schools that they do stagy, desperate, disturbing things to stand out. The essay portion of their applications can be an especially jolting illustration of that.

Photo

Credit Ben Wiseman

It’s an illustration of something else, too: a tendency toward runaway candor and uncensored revelation, especially about tribulations endured and hardships overcome, among kids who’ve grown up in the era of the overshare. The essay is where our admissions frenzy and our gratuitously confessional ethos meet, producing autobiographical sketches like another that Motto remembers reading at Yale, this one from a male student.

“He wrote about his genitalia, and how he was under-endowed,” Motto told me. “He was going for something about masculinity and manhood, and how he had to get over certain things.”

Motto, who was an assistant director of admissions at Yale from 2001 to 2003 and evaluated applications part time from 2007 to 2008, said that essays as shocking as those two were a small minority. Other people who have screened college applications or coached applicants through the admissions process echoed that assessment.

But they also noted, as he did, an impulse in many essay writers to tug readers into the most intimate corners of their lives and to use unfiltered frankness as a way to grab attention. In some of the essays that students begin to draft and some of the essays that they actually wind up submitting, there are accounts of eating disorders, sexual abuse, self-mutilation, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug addiction. Sally Rubenstone, one of the authors of the “Panicked Parents’ Guide to College Admissions,” has called this “the Jerry Springer-ization of the college admissions essay,” referring to the host of one of the TV talk shows best known for putting private melodrama on a public stage.

Stephen Friedfeld, one of the founders of AcceptU, an admissions consulting firm, told me that in the essay of a student he and his colleagues worked with this year, he encountered a disorder he’d never heard of before: cyclic vomiting syndrome. And Friedfeld and his colleagues huddled over the wisdom of the student’s account of his struggle with it. Would it seem too gross? Too woe-is-me?

Their solution was to encourage the student to emphasize the medical education that he’d undertaken in trying to understand his ailment. They also recommended that he inch up to the topic and inject some disarming humor. Friedfeld said that the final essay began something like this: “In my Mom’s car? Yep, I’ve done it there. As I’m waiting in line to eat my lunch in school? Yep, I’ve done it there.” The “it” was left vague for a few sentences.

Right now, during the summer months between the junior and senior years of high school, many kids who’ll be putting together their college applications in the fall start to sweat the sorts of essays they’ll write. And as they contemplate potential topics, some of them go to highly emotional places.

“Being a little vulnerable can give great insight into your character,” said Joie Jager-Hyman, a former admissions officer at Dartmouth College and the president of College Prep 360, which helps students assemble their applications. “I’ve had successful essays on topics like ‘my father’s alcoholism’ or ‘my parents got divorced because my dad is gay.’ ”

She’ll shepherd students through four or more drafts. Michele Hernandez, another prominent admissions counselor, runs one or more sessions of an Application Boot Camp every summer in which roughly 25 to 30 kids will be tucked away for four days in a hotel to work with a team of about eight editors on what she told me were as many as 10 drafts of each of three to five different essays. The camp costs $14,000 per student. That doesn’t include travel to it, the hotel bill, breakfast or dinners, but it does include lunch and a range of guidance, both before and during the four days, on how students should fill out college applications and best showcase themselves.

Hernandez, Jager-Hyman and others in the booming admissions-counseling business try to steer students away from excessively and awkwardly naked testimonials, which can raise red flags about students’ emotional stability and about their judgment.

“Admissions officers pay as much attention to students’ choice of essay topic as they do to the details in their essays,” Motto told me.

He added that admissions officers can sniff out an essay that a student got too much help on, and he told me a funny story about one student he counseled. He said that the boy’s parents “came up with what they thought was the perfect college essay,” which described the boy as the product of “an exceptionally difficult pregnancy, with many ups and downs, trips to the hospital, various doctor visits.”

“The parents drafted a sketch of the essay and thought it was terrific,” Motto said. Then they showed it to their son, “and he pointed out that everything mentioned happened before he was born.” He ended up choosing a topic that spoke to his post-utero life as a math lover who found a way to use those skills to help patients at a physical rehabilitation center.

THE blind spots and miscalculations that enter into the essay-writing process reflect the ferocious determination of parents and children to impress the gatekeepers at elite schools, which accept an ever smaller percentage of applicants. Students are convinced that they have to package themselves and communicate in entirely distinctive fashions.

“We argue that one of the ways to help your case is to show that you have a voice,” said André Phillips, the senior associate director of recruitment and outreach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But in that effort, sometimes students cross the line. In trying to be provocative, sometimes students miss the point.”

Motto said that one Yale applicant “actually described himself as one of the world’s great Casanovas” and said that his amazing looks inspired envy in other boys and competition among girls vying for his affection.

In response to several essays about emotional trauma, Motto contacted the students’ secondary schools to make sure that the applicants were O.K. He said he called the guidance counselor at the school of the girl who had urinated on herself, expressing concern about the essay and about whether she might be sabotaging her own application. He said that the counselor was aware of the essay and as baffled by it as Motto was.

The girl didn’t get into Yale, Motto said. Neither did the boy who mulled his genitalia. And neither did Casanova. There were apparently limits to the reach of his legendary sexual magnetism, and the Gothic spires and ivy-covered walls of a certain campus in New Haven lay beyond them.

By Frank Bruni

Find original article at : http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-oversharing-in-admissions-essays.html